Arsenal 4 Bolton Wanderers 1
Should I make a joke about how although it was a comprehensive victory, Arsenal's play had the confidence and swagger of an elite private school. Alright, against my better judgement I will.
I should preface my thoughts on the Bolton game by saying this was a little like a match Arsenal played circa 2004. Even at 1-1 I was super-confident that Arsenal would win the game. The always excellent Goodplaya kept on making the point in the spring that Arsenal were failing to kill games off early. In this respect it's been reassuring to see us score ten goals in our first two home games.
It's always difficult to make judgements at this early stage of the season, but trying to make year-on-year comparisons, a salient match to look at is Birmingham last year. For all we won 3-1 it wasn't until the 85th minute that it was well and truly wrapped up. And, far more pertinently, there wasn't the same air of confidence about the team.
In my eyes, this is incredibly important. Having a psychological advantage and believing we can beat teams of the ilk of Bolton and Blackburn is half the challenge - there's no doubting we are better on the pitch.
And it's in this light that one has to view the changes Wenger made on Saturday. He picked Gibbs and Eboue at full-back (for example) because he has confidence in this team at the moment. There's a certainly a case to be made that Arsenal always play well in August and September.
But frankly this is clichéd rubbish. It's easy to say the title challenge fell apart in April last year. Yet this overlooks that Arsenal lost two of their first four games. It's easy to say we were just too poor over the season in 08-09. But this falls down when one considers we lost five times in the League by the end of November.
I really think this team is playing excellently at the moment as a side. And this is in spite of some weak individual performances. Andrey Arshavin should have had a hat-trick by half-time and though thinks like this are endearing, it seems pretty clear he needs to lose a few pounds and so that he concentrates less on running, and more on putting the ball in the back of the net. My school teachers used to write on my report 'he can do it'. This is the case with Arshavin, but he needs to prove it.
I think pressuring Laurent Koscielny won't help. The fact he scored was moot, it wasn't like he did anything great to do so. Let's be clear, he cost us a goal and that's obviously not ideal. But he's still only played a few games, and that aside he did well. He could easily prove to be an exceptionally talented defender. He hasn't taken to the side like Thomas Vermaelen did, but then again, how many players do? With Squillaci hovering in the wings and clearly competent, Koscielny definitely knows there is pressure on his place. The fans don't need to drum this into him.
What does need to be drummed in, is that the referees need to pull it together. How often do they send a team down to nine men? It's clear Gary Cahill shouldn't have been sent off. But that does not in any way mean that Attwell should thereafter have let Paul Robinson off his foul on Abou Diaby. It was a really poor challenge and one can only rue the fact that two of our most impressive early-season performers (Theo and Diaby) are now on the sidelines.
The way this team is playing, I'd expect them to beat Sunderland on Saturday and West Brom the week after. But Chelsea have started in scintillating fashion and though I always say games between the Big Four don't decide the League, it would be a huge morale booster if we can avoid defeat at the Bridge. Still, the manager always says he takes it one match at a time and as long as we put the points on the board, it puts pressure on Chelsea to keep on playing well. Crucially, in comparison to say 2005-06, Chelsea haven't roared away to such an extent that they're uncatchable; hey, they haven't roared away at all.
Frankly, Liverpool aside, the fixture list has been reasonable to us. The crucial thing right now is to avoid any stupid mistakes which cost points. In this respect, it's good to see Manuel Almunia playing well. Long may it continue, he's definitely one of the good guys in football.
It's Braga to(morrow)night and it's great to see yet another year of Champions League football. I'll try and tweet from the ground, so follow me and you might get some interesting snippets. There may even be the odd Audioboo thrown in.
Keep the faith,
Bonus reading: GFL's 'Are we witnessing the age of Denilson?' - as one of my favourite players, I like to read a positive analysis of him.